For Hometown News
State Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, is pushing a new statewide education initiative he hopes will help high-risk minority youth to succeed in life.
Rep. Taylor obtained $619,000 in funding from this year's legislative session for "High-Risk Delinquent and Dependent Youth Educational Research Project.
"The goal of this project is to assist our young boys in improving school grades, improving behavior and preventing that first time at delinquency involvement," he explained in a news release. "Prevention, mentoring and guidance are the key components here."
Rep. Taylor hosted a kick-off event, featuring training for college mentors, Sept. 6-8 at the Doubletree Hilton in Orlando. University representatives, members from the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, mentors, mentees and other stakeholders attended the event to discuss the importance, impact and vision of the program, which begins this fall.
The project brings together five of Florida's higher learning institutions, including four historically Black colleges and universities. The schools are the University of Florida, Edward Waters College, Bethune-Cookman University, Florida A&M University and Florida Memorial University.
In Daytona Beach, B-CU students will mentor pupils of Champion and Palm Terrace elementary schools.
Educational attainment, delinquency and fiscal responsibility relative to high-risk minority male youth will be the focus of this project through research and targeted mentoring services to 150 students across the state.
Rep. Taylor became involved in the project after speaking with Randy Nelson, Ph.D, founder of 21st Century Research and Evaluations Inc., who addressed the Legislative Black Caucus about the need for the project.
"These fourth, fifth graders can't say 'I'm in a bad school, my teacher doesn't care,'" Nelson said. "His mentor can say 'I've experienced that too and I made it.'"
The project comes amid a recent press conference where President Barack Obama addressed the issues facing black youth, "folks understand the challenges that exist for African-American boys," said the president, asking "what do we do next?"
"Is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?"
Taylor, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, believes the answer is yes.
"We will meet these young men where they are and then lift them up," he said. "This project will expose our youth to positive opportunities, the ability to cope with family conflict and the ability to prepare and plan for a bright future."